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8 Steps To Getting The Best Results From Your Body Work
Do you want to get great results from your investment in body work and movement work? I know I do! And I’ve tried it all…Before I was a movement teacher, I was a movement client. I was also a massage therapy client, an osteopathy client, a chiropractic client, an acupuncture client, an orthodontic client, a naturopath client and a physiotherapy client. Maybe some other stuff too, sometimes I lose track. I’ve been trying to get better for a REALLY long time! Fortunately I found my true calling along the way, and my health has basically transformed, so that’s been good. But you know what else?
I have figured out how to be a really great client.
And the thing about being a great client is that you get great results.
If you’re going to spend thousands of dollars and hours of your precious, unique life trying to feel better, I believe that you deserve to get the most bang for your buck. So today I’m going to tell you how you can maximize the results of your hard work, no matter what treatment modality you prefer.
#1 Decide what modality makes sense for you to do.
If you have pain and want to fix it, spend some time figuring out who might be best able to help you work on it. First of all, consider whether you want to do manual work or movement work (or both).
Not sure what the difference is between movement and manual work?
The short version is:
Manual work is about undoing or changing stuff that is the result of how you move (like your tight bits). Movement work is about changing how you move so you don’t get the stuff in the first place.
Movement work and manual work can really enhance each other – for best results, I definitely recommend both! And make sure you tell your people about each other – you’ll likely find that this will give you a more cohesive and effective program. My personal current combo is osteopathy + Restorative Exercise + additional movement work (my tongue exercises!) + massage and cranial-sacral (mostly because it feels great).
Here’s a quick list of modalities that you can consider:
- Restorative Exercise (movement) (and my personal favourite!)
- Osteopathy (manual) (also my favourite)
- Massage therapy (manual) (yum)
- Chiropractic (manual)
- Physiotherapy (manual + movement)
- Craniosacral therapy (manual)
- Psychotherapy (not exactly body work…except the mind and the body ARE CONNECTED. Don’t discount it!)
- Somatic Experiencing (not exactly body work…more on the mind/body connection)
- Feldenkrais (movement)
- Acupuncture (manual)
- Structural integration (including rolfing) (manual)
- Pilates (movement)
- Alexander Technique (kind of in between movement and manual)
Each of these modalities has a different approach and creates different results, even though the broad goals are the same. Depending on your stuff, some will work better for you than others. Create a short list of modalities that sound interesting to you. Try out a few of them and see what you think. Then pick one or two to try in greater depth.
JUST BECAUSE YOUR BENEFITS COVER IT, DOESN’T MEAN ITS A GOOD CHOICE. This is important and at times people ignore it. If chiropractic isn’t what your plantar fasciitis needs, then don’t bother with it even if it’s super cheap.
Making money your first criterion for figuring out your treatment plan is not a great way to respect your body’s needs. If money is an issue, explore different ways to get to the same goal. For instance, community acupuncture is really amazing and inexpensive. Some movement teachers (ME!) teach group classes. Many practitioners offer sliding scales or payment plans. There are options out there!
#2 Research your teacher (or practitioner, or whatever).
Fit is hugely important! There are lots and lots of people out there who are providing manual or movement therapeutic services. Most of them are probably pretty good at their jobs. So what you need to know is how well their personality and their approach fit with your needs right now.
If you know you have very little time for self-care, a manual practitioner may be more useful than a movement person for you – they’re less likely to give you homework. However, homework is part of what creates change, so you may find that your results don’t ‘stick’ as well as you would like.
Try to get a sense of how they work, what they do and who they are. Learning a bit about the modalities they have certified in can be useful. Do you like what THEIR teachers are teaching them? Make sure their work approach resonates for you. What are their values? What is their own story? Read their testimonials, follow their blogs, get in touch for a phone call – the more you can get to know your teacher or practitioner the better. Referrals from friends are really useful, but not always the whole story – this is a place where doing your homework can save you a lot of money and time!
#3 Commit to the process, but not forever.
Working with the body can take time. It took your ENTIRE LIFE to create the body issues you have now – so they might not change a lot after one session (though sometimes you’ll notice an immediate impact, which is super cool, too).
Also, your practitioner needs to get to know your body. I often feel that I hit my stride with most clients around our third session – before that, it’s a lot of exploration and data collection. By our third session, I have a theory about what’s going on and can start honing in on things. That’s why I like to see private clients for a minimum of 10 sessions – I feel like that’s a great amount to help you create real, meaningful change.
However, it’s important to remember that not every modality is right for your body right now. For instance, I have spent lots of time and effort working with naturopaths to help fix my sleep issues. Since my insomnia was probably the result of poor breathing due to my narrow airway (caused by my tongue-tie), all those herbs and supplements didn’t help a whole lot.
For movement work, I’d say that if you’re not seeing any changes after 10 sessions, it’s usually a good time to start considering trying a different modality. This could vary if you’re trying out manual therapy or a different movement modality, so check with your person to see if they can tell you what to expect.
#4 Commit to the process, really
If your person gives you homework, you should do it.
We don’t just give it out for fun.
We give it to you the way a doctor would give you pills – the homework is what makes you better.
Especially when it comes to movement work, our time together is time when you and I figure out what types of movement make the most sense for you to work on, and then I’ll teach you what to do for your home practice.
So that means that a person who simply does their homework almost always gets the best results.
(That said, we really do understand how busy life is – a great teacher will work with you to help you find the right amount of work to do so you can balance your desire for change with your other life needs).
#5 Understand your motivation
If it’s hard for you to prioritize your homework, or even if its not, it’s really useful to spend some time thinking about why you’re doing this.
Being in pain might be part of it, but for many of us it’s not the whole story. For myself, it’s less about ‘not being in pain’, and more about how I want to spend my life. When I’m 65, I want to be able to trek around Mongolia, and climb, and swim and sleep outdoors under the stars. So that means I need my body to WORK, and for me that’s worth making a LOT of changes to my life.
What helps you stay motivated? Are you actually ready to do this work? Is your life in a place where you can make time for self care? Knowing really clearly what you hope to get out of it and what’s important to you will help you stay on track.
#6 Identify your barriers
Just like knowing why you’re doing this is helpful, knowing what’s stopping you is handy too.
For me, a major barrier is guilt. I feel like I should be working instead of moving. Isn’t that funny? But it’s true. So I’ve worked with a life coach on this, and it’s really helped me make my practice a priority again.
Other times,I get bored. When that happens, I focus on doing my favourite stuff while I listen to an audiobook. Probably not the most effective way to do my movement work, but a million times better than nothing!
Time is often called out as the issue, but it’s often more about how we choose to spend our time, so working with someone on this can be really useful! (My life coach, Brigid, is amazing and I’d highly recommend her for anyone who wants to feel good about making themselves a priority)!
Whatever is preventing you from moving as much as you wish you could, the first step is to figure out what the barrier is and then to create a strategy to deal with it.
Now that you’ve identified your barriers and created an action plan to deal with them, you can get out there and MOW THOSE SUCKERS DOWN!
#7 Observe yourself and ask questions
The more you learn about your body, the better care you can take of it!
Unfortunately no one gives us a Human Body User’s Manual, which means you need to be in charge of figuring yourself out.
The people you’re working with are a highly educated resource for YOUR learning. Ask them what they’re seeing in you, what choices they would make in your situation, what bits of you they’re working on and why those particular bits.
The body is so complicated and what you feel in one place – like your feet – might be related to what’s happening in a totally different place – like your upper back. “Chasing pain” or treating only the parts that hurt is not usually the right approach to body issues. So what you learn might be really interesting and crazy!
Fun fact: the parts of you that are the least functional (where you move the least) are also the hardest for to feel. Because you rarely move these parts, your brain doesn’t map them well, which means you feel them less, which means you move them even less. But these are usually the parts that need to move the most (and which might actually hurt when you start moving them!).
It’s usually a good idea to see yourself as a partner with your movement/manual person.
You provide direction by telling them how things are feeling and what issues you’re experiencing. They provide direction by assessing your structure and function from the point of view of their educational background. They’ll use all this information to create a plan or a theory for how to work with you. Then you’ll try out this plan and see what happens. As you notice how your body changes, you’ll report back and your treatment process will evolve from there.
It’s very experimental, and it’s a process that I think works way better when the client is fully involved. The more you know, the more involved you can be. So practice observing yourself and ask your person lots of questions!
#8 Take responsibility for yourself
Pretty much everything I’ve written above boils down to this – you’re the one who’s in charge of your own health. Unlike the widespread approach to conventional medicine, where we go to a doctor and they ‘fix’ you, this is a process in which your provider is a partner and facilitator of YOUR work. So if you go into it prepared to work, to learn and to invite change into your life, you will be sure to get some incredible results!
Neither movement nor manual therapy get as much respect these days as conventional medicine, which is a shame, because they all have different strong points. I’m hoping that in the future, the world will see that ‘spatial medicine’ – where your body is and how it occupies space – is just as important as the chemical alternatives offered by the allopathic world.
But in the meantime, it’s up to you and I to follow our hearts towards the work that helps us the most! So I’ve made up this little cheatsheet to help you plan a better and more successful journey towards wellness!
Have you already done a lot of manual and movement body work? Are you just starting out? I’d love to hear about what’s worked best for you and what you’ve learned along the way – tell me in the comments below!
Petra is a movement educator and personal trainer with a passion for helping people find greater ease, joy and health in their bodies. She believes that better movement can help every body - and she's always happy to chat about it. When she's not teaching, you'll probably find her hanging out on a set of monkey bars.